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New method to detect explosives

Toronto, Feb 13 (IANS): Some people still get past security with explosives on them, but this may no longer be possible with scientists revealing a foolproof method to detect molecules linked to explosive mixtures.

Researchers from University of Alberta's Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering have found a method of using receptor-free nano-mechanical infrared spectroscopy (NIS) to increase recognition of chemical molecules in explosive mixtures.

Seonghwan Kim, post-doctoral fellow at Alberta, explained that conventional sensors cannot detect specific molecules in complex mixtures if the concentration of interfering molecules is five times greater than the target molecules, the journal Nature reports.

NIS helps detect a few trillionths of a gram of explosive molecules in a complex mixture even if there is a higher concentration of other interfering molecules, according to an Alberta statement.

Thomas Thundat, professor of chemical and material engineering at Alberta, said the nano-mechanical infrared spectroscopy (interaction between matter and radiated energy) looks at the physical nature of the molecule and "even if there are mixed molecules, we can detect specific molecules using this method".

The research team's current work looks at detecting bio-molecules and hydrocarbons in the oil industry and nerve gas stimulants (DMMP), which can be found in household radiators, gasoline and fabric softeners, for example.

The team also hopes to develop a hand-held device for chemical detection that could be utilised in fields such as security, healthcare and environmental protection.

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